Reasons for the founding of Singapore
Singapore: The new southern port
After the war in Europe had come to an end in 1815, the British government back to Holland all the Dutch islands and ports in the East Indies, including Java, Melaka and Riau. Raffles had to leave Java before it was handed back to the Dutch.
While in Java, Raffles had studied and learnt a great deal about Java and the Javanese. When he returned to England, he published a book called "The History of Java". This work of his was a great success. Raffles became famous and was well-liked by members of the royal family as well as great scientists and public leaders. He was knighted and was henceforth known as Sir Stamford Raffles.
Sir Stamford Raffles returned to the East as the Lieutenant-Governer of Bencoolen in Sumatra. Back in the East, Raffles found that the Dutch not only had reoccupied the areas they had previously controlled, but were becoming more powerful than ever before in the region (the East Indies). With a huge fleet of warships and a strong army, the Dutch were enforcing stricter rules about trade.
They did not allow the British to trade freely in the Archipelago. British ships were not allowed to trade with any of the Dutch-controlled ports except Batavia (modern day Jakarta). The British traders were charged high fees for using the port facilities at Batavia and had to pay heavy taxes on goods which they sold or bought.
All Asian trading boats had to fly a Dutch flag and carry a Dutch permit or pass. They were not allowed to trade with any ports except Dutch-controlled ones.
By enforcing such rules and controls, the Dutch were having a trade monopoly. They were spreading their trade monopoly to more and more areas in order to keep out the British traders. They sent officials and soldiers to occupy new areas controlled by local rulers who had been independent, or free from Dutch rule. British ships and traders were shut out from these areas.
Raffles was strongly opposed to the Dutch monopoly of trade. He saw more clearly than any other British official the necessity to break the Dutch monopoly. The Dutch wanted to keep British trade to the ports of Penang and Bencoolen. But Raffles knew that with only these two ports, the British could never break the monopoly of the Dutch
Bencoolen had long proved to be useless as a port and trading centre. It was on the wrong side of Sumatra, and faced the Indian Ocean instead of the Straits of Melaka, where the main trade routes lay.
Penang, too, was not very useful because it lay too far north of the Straits of Melaka to effectively protect the British ships using the Straits. Dutch-occupied Melaka occupied a far better position and, together with Java, allowed the Dutch to control both the Straits of Melaka and the Sunda Straits (between Java and Sumatra). This enabled the Dutch to cut off valuable trade between Penang and the other important trading centres within the archipelago.
Raffles was of the opinion that if the British had another port south of Dutch Melaka, this new port and the older port of Penang could be used to protect British shipping and trading along the Straits of Melaka.
A new British port situated to the south of the Malay Peninsula would command the southern entrance to the Straits of Melaka. It would lie where the trading ships between China and India had to pass close by as they sailed round the southern end of the Malay Peninsula. Raffles was looking for such a port.
Most importantly, the new southern British port would be much nearer to the main trading areas in the archipelago than Penang. As the new southern port would be much nearer to Java and the eastern part of the Malay Archipelago, it could be a centre of free trade to attract traders from all over the archipelago. This would allow the British to begin to break the Dutch monopoly of trade.
Raffles wrote several complaints to the East India Company against the Dutch, and also put forward his ideas about forming a new British settlement. However, his complaints and ideas fell on deaf ears. Fortunately, his chief in Calcutta, the Governor-General of British India, agreed to let him visit Calcutta and explain his ideas in person.
Raffles went to Calcutta and met the Governor-General, Lord Hastings. He presented his ideas and arguments so well that Lord Hastings agreed to send him as his special agent to set up a new British settlement to the south of the Malay peninsula - at Riau, or Singapore, or its neighbourhood.
Raffles acted quickly for fear that the Dutch would occupy the places that he thought of. When he hurried back from Calcutta to Penang, he learned that the Dutch had just reoccupied Riau, one of the places he had thought of. Therefore, Raffles and his assistant, Farquhar, had to look for another suitable place. They examined a group of islands to the west of Singapore, but found them unsuitable for a port. Sailing eastwards, they soon reached Singapore island, where Raffles decided to set up the new port that the British badly needed.
Raffles found the island of Singapore to be the very place that he had been looking for. Its geographical position was even better than that of Riau. With its excellent harbour and plentiful supply of good drinking water, the island was suitable as a port. It had not been occupied by the Dutch and was ruled by a Malay chief who was willing to help Raffles start a new British settlement.
This Malay chief, or Temenggong, was willing to give Raffles permission to start a settlement, but said that the island actually belonged to his overlord, Sultan Abdul Rahman of the Johor-Riau Sultanate. Only the Sultan could give Raffles the permission he needed.
The problem lied in the fact that the Sultan was under Dutch control, and the Dutch would certainly not allow the British to occupy Singapore. However, Raffles learnt that the current Sultan had an elder brother, Tengku Hussein, who was away in Pahang when his father, the ex-Sultan had died. Because he had been away, the Bugis chiefs in Riau had made Abdul Rahman the Sultan instead. This was supported by the Dutch. The Malay chiefs who supported Hussein were unhappy, but could do nothing. When Tengku Hussein found out that his brother had become the new Sultan, he had no choice but to live quietly on one of the Riau islands.
After Raffles knew of what had happened, he thought of a way to outsmart the Dutch. He would recognize Tengku Hussein as the rightful Sultan and then get permission from him to found a new settlement in Singapore. On 6 February 1819, in a ceremony at the Padang, Raffles publicly recognized Tengku Hussein as the Sultan. Sultan Hussein and the Temenggong then signed a treaty with the British allowing them to build a settlement in the southern part of Singapore. The Sultan and the Temenggong would be paid $5000 and $3000 a year respectively.
Thus, modern Singapore was founded.